Sunday 17 December 2017

Truth-telling game that becomes too personal

John McKeown

project cube

Marcus Youssef and James Long, two writer/perfomer friends from Vancouver sit at opposite ends of a table and take turns coming up with subjects that they judge to be 'winners' or 'losers'. They rarely agree. And as the disconnected subjects come up – Irish pubs, Mexico, Stephen Hawking – the differences between the friends become apparent.

This part of the game, played within a rectangle chalked on the floor, is pretty shallow, skimpy stuff. It's meant to be, before the meatier antagonisms emerge, but even so it's very juvenile. Wouldn't Hawking prefer to be able to urinate unaided rather than have a legacy as a great cosmologist? England's a winner because the English do self-esteem so well. "Bloody England!" retorts James, case closed.

Things get more personal, but remain juvenile, when they compare methods of masturbation. A rise in the competitive temperature is signalled by a ping-pong match. James, who usually loses, wins. Later on, James, apparently bested in argument by Marcus, returns from 'the Pee Moment' to start wrestling with his friend. It's not stage-fighting by any means, and it looks very tetchy.

Things get tetchier still in the last section when the buddies go head-to-head about each other's flaws. James's big gripe is that Marcus, a 44-year-old rich kid who stands to inherit massively when his father dies, is a 'tourist' who's just visiting real life. Marcus counters by accusing James of using his theatre career to avoid looking after his family and of being a closet misanthropist.

There's a certain earnestness in the execution of this truth-telling game, and even a spot or two of what feels like real visceral confrontation.

Though they make an effort to give their differences some broader social significance it all remains personal to them, and ultimately like witnessing an argument between two strangers.

You enjoy the sound and fury, but it has nothing to do with you. And indifference is hardly what we go to the theatre for.

Irish Independent

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